(KMAland) -- It's time to take a look at another area volleyball conference for the upcoming season. Today, we move along to the Pride of Iowa Conference.
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2021 PRIDE OF IOWA CONFERENCE VOLLEYBALL PREVIEW
In the Pride of Iowa Conference, the league only records a conference record within each division. The East plays the East, the West plays the West. Sometimes the East and West will play, but that doesn’t account into your conference record. After all division mates play one another, they separate the teams by record into pods in the Pride of Iowa Tournament. Last year was different in that not all division rivals played one another. COVID was a thing last year, if you’ll remember.
Anyway, the tournament did happen. Southeast Warren beat Nodaway Valley in the POI final while Lenox beat Southwest Valley for third. Here’s a look at each team’s overall record last year, sorted by win percentage.
•Southeast Warren Warhawks — 25-1 overall
•Nodaway Valley Wolverines — 23-7 overall
•Lenox Tigers — 11-7 overall
•Southwest Valley Timberwolves — 15-14 overall
•Bedford Bulldogs — 10-14 overall
•East Union Eagles — 8-12 overall
•Wayne Falcons — 9-18 overall
•Mount Ayr Raiderettes — 4-14 overall
•Central Decatur Cardinals — 5-18 overall
•Martensdale-St. Marys Blue Devils — 2-13 overall
•Bedford: Carmen Perdew
•Central Decatur: Bailey Gwinn
•East Union: Gail Thatcher
•Lenox: Jesse Cox & Tom Christensen
•Martensdale-St. Marys: Amie Berndt
•Mount Ayr: Kristen Graham
•Nodaway Valley: Allie Kiburz
•Southeast Warren: Jodi Clendenen
•Southwest Valley: Lindsay Wetzel
•Wayne: Alyssa Harders
The All-Pride of Iowa Conference teams are very exclusive. There are 10 teams in the league, and they only have eight on the first team. Five of them have graduated: Nodaway Valley’s Lexi Shike and Corinne Bond, Southwest Valley’s Isabelle Inman, TJ Stoaks of Lenox and Southeast Warren’s Brooklynn Page.
That’s not it, though. There are six second team choices that have graduated in Bedford’s Macie Sefrit and Darcy Davis, Jordan England and Cassidy Nelson of Lenox, Southwest Valley’s Marah Larsen and Makayla Ruble of Southeast Warren.
There are four other seniors from last year that were honorable mentions: Kennedy Weed of Bedford, East Union’s Makenna Cass, Natalie Yonker of Nodaway Valley and Lauren Christensen from Lenox. So, yeah, this league might look a little — or a lot — different this year.
These are the 20 top-returning hitters in the league, sorted by total kills during the 2020 season:
1. Alivia Ruble, Junior, Southeast Warren: The top-returning hitter in the conference hit .299 and finished with 229 winners last year for the Warhawks.
2. Emily Jones, Senior, Wayne: Another softball standout, Jones was terrific out of the middle for the Falcons, finishing with 218 kills in 85 sets.
3. Maddax DeVault, Senior, Nodaway Valley: DeVault can also swing it from the outside in volleyball. She had 195 kills in 76 sets last year.
4. Josie Hartman, Senior, Southeast Warren: The KMAland Offensive Player of the Year in softball finished her junior year with 149 kills on .255 efficiency over 68 total sets played.
5. Kyli Aldrich, Senior, Southwest Valley: Big season for Aldrich, who broke out with 128 kills over 84 sets last year for the Timberwolves.
6. Emily Baker, Junior, Bedford: The top-returning hitter for the Bulldogs, Baker finished with 119 kills over just 51 sets last season.
7. Sterling Berndt, Senior, Wayne: Can I tell you…I’m loving the softball crossover here. Berndt is listed as a setter/outside hitter and finished the year with 112 kills over 84 sets for the Falcons.
8. Anna Parrott, Senior, Martensdale-St. Marys: A tough year for the Blue Devils, but Parrott was a bright spot with 97 kills in 51 sets played.
9. Malloree Horn, Sophomore, Central Decatur: The top hitter for the Cardinals last year, Horn had a solid freshman season with 89 kills in 66 sets.
10. Norah Lund, Senior, Southwest Valley: There’s an opening at setter, and that could be Lund’s spot. However, she hit on the outside last season and had 89 kills in 84 sets.
11. Toxey Freeman, Senior, Wayne: The senior finished with exactly one kill per set last season with 85 winners.
12. Addy Reynolds, Senior, Mount Ayr: A right side last year, Reynolds had 73 kills in 56 sets for the Raiderettes.
13. Samantha Larsen, Senior, Southwest Valley: A returning middle for the Timberwolves, Larsen put down 72 swings in 63 sets.
14. River Hamaker, Junior, Central Decatur: It was a young CD bunch in 2020, and Hamaker had 71 kills in 68 sets for the Cardinals out of the middle.
15. Karah Kirkland, Senior, East Union: Kirkland was among the top 25 in the POI in total kills last season as she had 68 kills in 62 sets.
16. Kaitlyn Mitchell, Senior, East Union: Another outside for East Union’s balanced attack, Mitchell had 64 kills in 62 sets.
17. Zoey Sherman, Senior, Southeast Warren: A periphery hitter last season, Sherman could get some more looks this year after 56 kills in 68 sets.
18. Whitney Lamb, Senior, Nodaway Valley: This could be a big chance for Lamb this season, who hit out of the middle behind Corinne Bond. Lamb had 55 kills in 76 sets.
19. Addiston Graham, Senior, Central Decatur: Another returning hitter for the Cardinals, Graham had 50 kills in 68 sets.
20. Tegan Streit, Junior, Mount Ayr: This could be a big year for Streit all the way around in sports. She had 38 kills in 50 sets for the Raiderettes.
Note: Lenox is the only team not represented in the top 20, as they lost a lot of their offense from last season. The top-returning hitter is junior Cadence Douglas. The 1A high jump champion had 18 kills in 38 sets. She’s going to get plenty more chances this season.
The top-returning setters in the league are sorted by total assists during the 2020 season:
1. Kaylee Bauer, Senior, Southeast Warren: Bauer was one of four in the conference with at least 300 assists in 2020. She had 379 dimes in 68 sets last season for the Warhawks.
2. Sterling Berndt, Senior, Wayne: As mentioned, Berndt did a little hitting, but she also passed out 273 assists in 84 sets.
3. Mara Dykes, Senior, Central Decatur: She had a young group of hitters to work with and made it work with 220 assists in 68 sets.
4. Elizabeth Hardy, Senior, East Union: One of eight setters with at least 200 assists, Hardy had 204 in 47 sets.
5. Lydia Kern, Junior, Southeast Warren: The Warhawks bring back both of their setters. Kern had 196 assists in 54 sets last season.
6. Hadley Pearson, Sophomore, Martensdale-St. Marys: Pearson shared setting duties, but she led the team with 87 assists in 49 sets.
7. Kaylie Shields, Junior, Mount Ayr: The Raiderettes worked in two setters last season, and Shields was one of those with 74 assists in 47 sets.
8. Jackie Kleve, Senior, Martensdale-St. Marys: The other Blue Devils setter is also back. Kleve had 73 assists in 43 sets.
So, we can likely identify at least some of the setting plans for six of the 10 teams. Let’s see what we can find on the other four:
•Bedford: Macie Sefrit has graduated after ranking second in the conference in total assists. It looks like junior Destry Bassinger could be the person in charge this season. She is the only other player on last year’s roster listed at the spot.
•Lenox: Lauren Christensen was the Tigers’ setter last season. There are two listed as setters that could take over in 2020: senior Brooklynn Ecklin and sophomore Mallory Henrichs.
•Nodaway Valley: First team setter Lexi Shike is gone (as mentioned), so who takes over? That seems to be a very good question, given no other player was listed primarily as a setter on last year’s roster. Sometimes if you look to a DS or even a RS you can take a good guess. I’ll throw out junior Madison Long, but I really have no clue.
•Southwest Valley: As mentioned Norah Lund was listed as an OH/S last season. If they elect to keep her as a hitter, the next option could be sophomore Haidyn Top, who got a tiny bit of action as a freshman a year ago.
These are the 20 top-returning defenders in the league, sorted by total digs during the 2020 season:
1. Maddax DeVault, Senior, Nodaway Valley: A six-rotation standout, DeVault can do it all, and she proved it last year with 274 total digs in 76 sets.
2. Josie Hartman, Senior, Southeast Warren: A middle that can dig it up, Hartman had 209 digs in 68 sets in 2020.
3. Norah Lund, Senior, Southwest Valley: We sure are mentioning Lund quite a bit. The senior had 208 digs in 84 sets last year for the Timberwolves.
4. Emily Jones, Senior, Wayne: Jones was another strong all-around player with 191 digs in 85 sets.
5. Malloree Horn, Sophomore, Central Decatur: Horn posted 180 total digs last season in 66 sets.
5. Maggie Haer, Junior, Southwest Valley: The top-returning libero in the conference — at least according to total digs — finished with 180 digs of her own in 84 sets.
7. Abby Dukes, Senior, Bedford: Bedford’s Dukes is another libero that returns to the league, finishing with 174 digs in 64 sets.
8. Kaylee Bauer, Senior, Southeast Warren: The senior setter finished with 163 digs in 68 sets played last season.
9. Morgan Knutson, Senior, Wayne: Wayne’s defensive specialist, Knutson put up 150 digs over 82 sets for the year.
10. Sterling Berndt, Senior, Wayne: Berndt picked up 131 digs in 84 sets for the Falcons.
11. Maddie Stewart, Senior, Mount Ayr: Stewart handled the libero duties for the Raiderettes and had 126 digs in 56 sets last year.
12. Mara Dykes, Senior, Central Decatur: A setter that can dig it up here, too, with 119 digs in 68 sets played.
13. Hallee Hamilton, Senior, Central Decatur: Hamilton finished last season with 117 digs in 68 sets.
14. Brooklynn Ecklin, Senior, Lenox: While she could take over at setter this year, there is also a spot open at libero. Ecklin showed she could handle the defensive side with 113 digs in 55 sets last year.
15. Sidney Davis, Senior, Wayne: One of 35 in the conference last season with 100 digs or more, Davis had exactly that in 84 sets played.
16. Ryanne Mullen, Junior, Southwest Valley: The Southwest Valley DS, Mullen had 87 digs in 77 sets.
17. Lydia Kern, Junior, Southeast Warren: Kern worked a bit at setter as mentioned above and finished last year with 86 digs in 54 sets played.
18. Madison Long, Junior, Nodaway Valley: I threw Long out as an option at setter, but she did a fine job defensively with 83 digs in 48 sets played.
19. Caitlyn Maynes, Senior, Lenox: Maynes could slide right into the spot left by Cassidy Nelson. She had 82 digs in 52 sets played last season.
20. Zoey Sherman, Senior, Southeast Warren: And the final name in the top 20, Sherman posted 81 digs for the Warhawks last season.
Eight of the teams in the conference are represented in this top 20. The other two teams:
•East Union: Both Kaitlyn Mitchell and Mallory Raney had 54 digs apiece for the Eagles on the year. They are the top returning players for East Union in this category.
•Martensdale-St. Marys: Jackie Kleve and Anna Parrott are the top two returning defenders in this category for the Blue Devils. They actually are 21st and 22nd on this list, finishing with 80 and 75 digs, respectively.
These are the 15 top-returning defenders in the league, sorted by total blocks during the 2020 season:
1. Emma Perkey, Junior, Nodaway Valley: The top three blockers from last season have graduated, and that leaves Perkey as the top-returning swatter in the conference. She had 37.0 total blocks, including 23 solos.
2. Emily Jones, Senior, Wayne: Not surprised to see Jones on another list. She had 36.0 total blocks, including 22 solos, on the season.
3. Kyli Aldrich, Senior, Southwest Valley: Aldrich was a big team blocker with eight solos among her 35.0 total blocks last year.
4. Samantha Larsen, Senior, Southwest Valley: Another Timberwolf here. Larsen had 29.0 total blocks, including 13 solos.
5. Karah Kirkland, Senior, East Union: East Union’s top-returning blocker is Kirkland, who had 28.0 total blocks and 13 solos.
6. Whitney Lamb, Senior, Nodaway Valley: The Wolverines should continue to put up a fine block. Lamb had 27.0 total, including 15 solos last year.
7. Josie Hartman, Senior, Southeast Warren: Here’s another category for Hartman. She had 25.0 total blocks and 11 solos for the Warhawks.
8. River Hamaker, Junior, Central Decatur: Hamaker put up 18.0 total blocks, including 16 big solo swats for the Cardinals.
8. Anna Parrott, Senior, Martensdale-St. Marys: Parrott also had 18.0 total blocks and it was with 15 solos.
10. Elizabeth Hardy, Senior, East Union: Hardy put up 17.0 total blocks a season ago with 13 of them of the assisted variety.
11. Addy Reynolds, Senior, Mount Ayr: Reynolds was above the net for 17.0 total blocks and seven solos last year.
12. Alivia Ruble, Junior, Southeast Warren: Ruble finished up her junior season with 15.0 total blocks and had five solos.
13. Amy Potter, Junior, Central Decatur: Potter posted 14.0 total blocks and 12 solos last season for the Cardinals.
13. Cadence Douglas, Junior, Lenox: Makes sense. The terrific high jumper had a solid year above the net with 14.0 total blocks.
13. Tegan Streit, Junior, Mount Ayr: And finally we have Streit, who also had 14.0 total blocks last season, finishing with four solos.
Nine of the teams in the league are represented in that top 15. That leaves Bedford, which lost a lot of their blocking from last season. Junior Emily Baker looks to be the top returnee in that category, finishing her sophomore year with 5.0 total blocks.
These are the top 10 returning servers in the league, sorted by total aces during the 2020 season:
1. Sterling Berndt, Senior, Wayne: Last year’s most successful server is back after finishing with 58 aces and an 88.9% efficiency.
2. Maddax DeVault, Senior, Nodaway Valley: DeVault was aggressive and accurate. She had 50 aces and a 94.7% serve efficiency.
3. Emily Jones, Senior, Wayne: Jones posted 46 aces and served in on 274 of her 292 (93.8%) serves.
4. Samantha Larsen, Senior, Southwest Valley: Larsen posted 35 aces last season and finished with an 87.8% efficiency.
5. Norah Lund, Senior, Southwest Valley: Very accurate server at 97.1% for the season, finishing with 34 aces on 344 serves.
6. Karah Kirkland, Senior, East Union: Kirkland posted 33 aces and finished with an 89.4% efficiency.
7. Kaylee Bauer, Senior, Southeast Warren: The Warhawks’ top server, Bauer had 32 aces and was in on 287 of her 306 serves (93.8%).
8. Mallory Rayne, Senior, East Union: She can pitch it, and she can serve it. Raney had 28 aces on 87.8% efficiency.
9. Malloree Horn, Sophomore, Central Decatur: Pretty clearly the top sophomore in the conference, Horn had 27 aces on 85.3% serve efficiency.
10. Mara Dykes, Senior, Central Decatur: Another Cardinal server. Dykes had 24 aces on the season, although the aggressiveness did lead to some misses with a 78.0% efficiency.
10. Lydia Kern, Junior, Southeast Warren: Kern served in on 95.4% of her serves and finished with 24 aces on the season.
Six of the 10 teams were represented in this top 10/11. Here’s a look at the top-returning servers for the other four:
•Bedford: The top-returning server in total aces for Bedford is senior Abby Dukes, who had 15 aces and served in on 122 of her 131 serves.
•Lenox: Brooklynn Ecklin was actually the most accurate server in the conference with 175 of her 180 serves going in. She also had 13 aces.
•Martensdale-St. Marys: Senior Anna Parrott had 11 aces last season on 82.9% efficiency.
•Mount Ayr: Maddie Stewart’s nine aces are the top-returning number for the Raiderettes. And she was accurate with 92 of her 92 serves (94.8%) going in.
RETURNING ALL-CONFERENCE PLAYERS
These are the returning all-conference players for each team:
•Central Decatur (1): Malloree Horn (Honorable Mention)
•East Union (0)
•Martensdale-St. Marys (1): Anna Parrott (Honorable Mention)
•Mount Ayr (1): Addy Reynolds (Honorable Mention)
•Nodaway Valley (1): Maddax DeVault (First Team Hitter)
•Southeast Warren (5): Kaylee Bauer (First Team Setter), Josie Hartman (First Team Hitter), Lydia Kern (Second Team Setter), Alivia Ruble (Second Team Hitter), Zoey Sherman (Honorable Mention)
•Southwest Valley (1): Norah Lund (Honorable Mention)
•Wayne (1): Emily Jones (Honorable Mention)
ONE FINAL TAKE FOR EACH TEAM
This is where I drop one final take for each team, sorting those teams by my projected order of finish:
1. Southeast Warren: Southeast Warren won the POI championship in undefeated fashion a year ago, and they didn’t lose until their 36th match of the season. They bring back five All-POI performers. No doubt, they are the easy favorite.
2. Southwest Valley: Southwest Valley looks like they are primed to jump up to the top of the West Division and could very well play for the POI championship at the end of the season.
3. Nodaway Valley: I’m going to move the Wolverines down just one spot, despite losing quite a bit of firepower and experience. They do lose some very important pieces, but I’ve got enough faith in DeVault and the talent around her here.
4. East Union: History is on my side. East Union does bring back their setter and a number of other talented players with experience. I’m taking a leap with some other teams returning much more, but Coach Gail Thatcher is a winner.
5. Wayne: The Falcons struggled to find the wins in 2020, but I think they will have enough experience and talent to flip that this season.
6. Central Decatur: The Cardinals were so, so young last season, but they were also promising enough that I think they should be able to make a climb this season.
7. Mount Ayr: The Raiderettes have a pair of nice hitters, one of their setters and a standout DS all returning to the fold. They might be a little low here, but I’m being conservative. They should have a big bounce back.
8. Lenox: The Tigers lost a lot from last year’s successful team, but they might end up surprising me and others that expect them to see a drop off. For now, without knowing much of anything, I’ve got to keep them down here a bit.
9. Bedford: They lost a lot of talent and experience, and they lost a lot of leadership. They’re also going through a coaching change. It’s not an easy thing to do. We’ll see what the Bulldogs look like soon enough.
10. Martensdale-St. Marys: The Blue Devils struggled last season. They could, undoubtedly, bounce back, but we will wait until they do before we make any big projections that way.
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